I’m sure you’ve heard this before, “declutter your space for improved business efficiency.” And I know you’re thinking it’s easier said than done, but decluttering your space can help declutter your brain, making you less stressed and more productive.
We all know that typical decluttering strategies involve clearing our desks and organizing our files, but I want to dig deeper into not only decluttering, but how to stay organized in your entire life and business. To get started on business decluttering I suggest using a systematic method that includes not only your business routines, but your home and lifestyle to ensure a holistic approach. Focusing on the entire process rather than focusing exclusively on organizing possessions or “things” will make your business and personal time more efficient.
So, which comes first: organizing your home or your office space? I suggest any organization process starts with the closet.
Step 1: Closet
A laser-focused closet ensures you are on the way to a structured, system-driven office space.
I take clients through an exercise where they can better understand how much time they waste in the mornings in their closet—whether it’s because they’re looking for things, because they have too much stuff, because they don’t have the right stuff, or because they’re always having to re-iron clothes that weren’t stored correctly. This is usually the “ah-ha” moment for clients, and it breaks down the ways a disorganized closet costs us time and peace of mind. In my experience, having an organized closet can save an hour a day. And I know everyone is excited about the prospect of an extra hour per day, which now sets the motivation to get started decluttering everywhere else!
However, this step goes deeper than just time-saving while looking for clothes. Especially for women, one major productivity waster can be attributed to the amount of time we spend worrying about what we are wearing instead of focusing on our business. We want to look put-together in business settings, and if you know that your wrinkled skirt is really going to bother you, you need to find a way to ensure your skirt won’t be wrinkled to avoid this distraction (or if you feel uncomfortable in a blouse because you could not find the one you usually wear). These examples can lead to obsessing over our appearance instead of whatever work it is you’re meant to be doing, which can be avoided by having a laser-focused closet to begin with.
Lastly, I suggest employing the 80/20 rule and making sure that 80% of the clothes you wear are not only accessible in your closet but fit your lifestyle. We usually spend 80% of our time in our “business-related attire”, whatever that may be, but make sure you have the correct type of clothes for your business so that you’re not worrying about this, and then make sure it is front and center.
Step 2: Space
Next, ensure that your living and workspaces fit your lifestyle and there is no clutter lingering in either space. To begin decluttering, you need to make some hard decisions about what items are practical necessities, what items are emotional necessities and what items are just plain trash. Everyone’s definition of clutter and trash will be different, and there are no set rules about what items fall into what category. Going back to my organization mantra: the most important thing is that the items you keep need to fit your lifestyle and business routines and if they don’t, they’re better off somewhere else.
To start, try tackling the biggest time-wasters first. For example, if you are always spending time looking for important files because of scattered papers on your desk or your online files, start here. Having disorganized files can be one of the most common causes for slowing you down at work and wasting time. In addition, you’re more likely to forget or miss important deadlines. Some quick tips to declutter your work station is to invest in folders (if you still use paper) or spend time making folders on your computer. Start here: every single day, be sure to schedule 10 minutes to organize your files. Scheduling organizing time is a great way to stay on track.
Step 3: Task elimination
Automate and outsource. You might wonder why clutter starts to pile up in the first place. It is usually because a task takes too long, or we don’t like doing the task. Take a hard look at your routines and systems, scrutinize where your time is best spent and if a task or duty could be performed by someone else, automated, or even completely eliminated. It is surprising how even small routine tasks can cause a mess because we don’t like to do these in the first place. One example is bookkeeping, an area where unless diligent record keeping is put into place from the very start, it might be better outsourced to prevent clutter.
To conclude, I know that the same organizing strategies and skills that work for living spaces can work for businesses, whether they take the form of large corporate offices or shared workspaces. That’s why I suggest starting to redefine your personal space and move on to your office. Plus, with my mantra in mind, remember that everyone has a different style and approach, so the structure-orientated MBA may employ a task-based system, whereas the creative entrepreneur might prefer big-picture outcomes for their daily planning and organizing style.
Message from Author Jane Stoller: I have had many requests for personal coaching on this topic and this in part led me to develop my signature personalized live coaching training series. The coaching program I have created is a way for business owners to transform their organizing mindsets, attract more time into their business and increase their productivity. In my signature personalized coaching course, I help clients learn the exact simple step-by-step formula to make changes in business and life, which helped me to not only declutter, but increase productivity, reduce stress, and increase my earnings! You can learn more about my course at organizedjane.com.